Birthday- Part I of II

I can’t remember the last time I had a big birthday bash.  Dinner and drinks, yes, absolutely.  It’s a great excuse to get a few friends together at a favourite watering hole for a nibble and natter.  But there’s normally just a few of us.  Low key and lovely.

But, but.  This year I’ve got a bigger birthday and that merits a bit more in way of celebrations.  Three sound about right.  So I had a summer lunch with family back in Sweden a few weeks ago, dinner at the delicious Brawn on the day itself and finally a do at Wilton’s Music Hall on the following Friday.  Why not, after all? 

The lunch I made for family and friends back on the island in Stockholm was a cross cultural affair with recipes inspired by my time at Leiths mixed in with a few family favourites.   A sort of pan Moroccan-Swedish smörgåsbord with spiced lamb, tahini and aubergine meeting smoked fish, saffron and Västerbotten cheese.  I’m not saying it necessarily made any kind of logical sense as a menu, but I figured it was my party and I’d cook what I wanted to.  I’ve copied the full menu below. 

 Jasmine from the garden

Prosecco with homemade elderflower cordial
Cheese and Tapenade straws
Pea and mint mousse
 Melon and Parma Ham
Moroccan Lamb meatballs in spiced tomato sauce
Bulgur Salad with feta, pomegranate, red onion and mint
Roasted Green Peppers with Tahini Dressing
Quiche with sesame and
Västerbotten Cheese Quiche
 Chicken with Tarragon, Lemon and Olives
Smoked Fish Terrine with Saffron and Dill
Green Salad
Basil Oil Vinaigrette 
Baba Ganoush
Flat Bread
Bread Rolls
Chocolate Cake
Summery Berry Cake
Strawberries and Cream

Admittedly there was a ridiculous amount of food but in my defence, there were 23 of us! And my family are pretty good eaters, it must be said.  Luckily, I had some help from Toby, my trusted sous chef, who was particularly proud of the Moroccan meatballs he made (they have been mentioned several times since) and he insisted I post the recipe.  The quiche calls for delicious Västerbotten cheese (a tongue-tingling tangy Swedish cheese), which is available at Waitrose and Ocado, however, a strong cheddar works just as well.  For the terrine, I used a large rectangular bread tin, no need to go out and buy a special dish.  

Lemon, Tarragon and Olive Chicken

Tahini Green Peppers

Kefta Maticha 
(Lamb meatballs in tomato and cinnamon sauce)
A Recipe from Leiths Cookery Bible

You will need:
250g minced lamb
1/2 onion, peeled and grated
1.5 tbsp parsley, chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 tsp mint, chopped
1.5 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground cinnamon
salt to taste

For the sauce:
250g chopped tinned tomatoes
1 tsp parsley, chopped plus extra
1/2 tsp ground ginger
3-4 cinnamon sticks
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste


1.  Place the mince in a large mixing bowl and combine with the onion, parsley, garlic, spices and salt and pepper.  Mix well.  

2.  Heat 2 tbsp of oil in a large pan and add the tomatoes.  Bring to a boil then reduce the heat to a simmer.  Add parsley and cinnamon and stir.   Allow the sauce to simmer and thicken for about 15-20 minutes.

3.  Meanwhile, shape the mince into meatballs.  Add to the sauce and simmer gently until cooked through.  Remove the cinnamon stick and check the seasoning, adjusting with salt, pepper and sugar.

4.  Serve scattered with parsley and accompanied by a bulgur salad and flatbreads.  

Smoked Mackerel, Trout and Saffron Potato Terrine
Adapted from the Chef’s Chef website.

For 1 large terrine mould, you will need:

600g  Smoked mackerel (whole, approx 400g if you are using fillets only)
300g  Floury potatoes
About 4 Smoked trout fillets (or two packets)
75g Butter, softened
two generous pinches of Saffron
1 tbsp Dill, finely chopped plus extra
1 Lemon


1.    Peel the potatoes and cut them into chunks.  Boil in a large pan of salted water along with a pinch of saffron.  Line a large terrine mould or bread tin with a double layer of cling.  You may find it easier to do this if you lightly wet the sheets of cling first.  There should be plenty of overhang. 

2. De-bone mackerel and remove the skin, separating the flesh into fillets.

3.  Place mackerel fillets on the base and sides of the mould, packing tightly.  You should find that the fillets will easily mould to each other and can use any smaller pieces to patch up any gaps. 

4.  Once the potatoes are cooked through, drain them and return to the hot pan for a minute to get rid of any excess moisture and fluff them up a bit.  Add the butter, dill, a little lemon juice to taste.  Mix together so that the potatoes begin to break up a bit.  Season with salt, pepper and another pinch of saffron if desired. 

5. Layer the centre of the mould with the potato mix and smoked trout and close the terrine with the rest of the mackerel.

6.  Close cling film over the top of the mould and weight lightly for 4 hours minimum in the fridge, ideally weighted down and overnight.

7.  Remove from the tin and from the cling.  Cut into generous slices and scatter with dill. 

Sesame and Leek Quiche
From Allt Om Mat
You will need:
(1 large quiche)
For the pastry:
250g flour
100g sesame seeds
125g butter, cold and cut into cubes
1/2 tsp salt
For the filling:
1 large leek
2 onions
4 shallots
3 garlic cloves
2 tbsp butter
1 tsp salt
1 tsp caster sugar
1 tbsp thyme, chopped
75g Västerbotten Cheese (or strong cheddar), grated
2 eggs, beaten
200ml double cream
1.  To make the pastry dough, combine flour, sesame seeds, butter and salt in a large bowl.  Use your fingers to crumb these together to breadcrumb consistency.  Press together into a ball of dough and use to line a 25cm pie dish, ideally loose-bottomed.  If you find that the dough is greasy or it is a particularly hot a day, chill for 15-20 min before using it.  Once you’ve lined the pie dish, refrigerate for 30 min.
2.  Preheat the oven to 200 C. Rinse the leeks and chop finely along with the onions and shallots.  Crush the garlic cloves. 
3.  Heat 2 tbsp of butter in a frying pan and fry the leeks, onions, shallots over a medium heat until soft but not coloured.  Add the garlic, salt, sugar, pepper and thyme.  Set aside. 
4.  Prick the pastry case all over with a fork then bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes.  Alternatively, you could blind bake it by lining it with parchment and filling with baking beads or some dried beans and baking for 15-20 min until the sides are set and it is golden in colour. 
5.  Once the leek mixture has cooled slightly, add the cheese and taste to season.  In a separate bowl, whisk the eggs and cream together. 
6.  Remove from the oven and fill with the leek and cheese.  Pour over the eggy cream and return to the oven for a further 25 minutes until the filling has cooked through but still wobbles a little.   Serve warm or cooled with a green salad and mustardy vinaigrette. 

Look who I found hanging out by the cake…

Midsummer’s Eve Pie

Västerbotten pie with gravad lax and spinach, tomato and melon salad

A game of kubb in the park

Picnic spoils

It was Midsummer’s Eve last Friday.  On of the biggest Swedish holidays, the day is celebrated in a hedonistic, herring-fuelled fashion to honour of the first proper day of summer and the lightest day of the year.  This includes the little frog-dance and downing plenty of snaps.  Not necessarily in that order.

This year, my Midsummer’s was spent it in Mile End Park with a picnic of gravadlax with mustard and dill sauce, västerbotten cheese pie, sour cream and chive potato salad, cucumber and dill salad and a hazelnut cake with cream and raspberries.  And some beautiful berry tarts, which I cannot take credit for. 

The pictures above and below are of my desk lunch made up of leftovers, seeing as I didn’t manage to take any decent photos on the evening itself.  I beefed up the bits and pieces with a fresh and cool salad of spinach, melon and tomato with balsamic. 

Working lunch

The pie is really very simple and straightforward.  What makes it special is the cheese that you choose- the tangier, the better.  I managed to find some Västerbotten cheese from the Scandinavian Kitchen for an authentic version.  It’s a properly strong, holey cheese with a peppery punch and creamy texture.  This classic pie is served at parties, traditionally with some fish roe, chopped red onion and sour cream.  You can, of course, use a really strong Cheddar or maybe some crumbly Lancashire.  You could add some chopped spring onions or herbs like chive or tarragon if you fancied pimping it.  Put personally, I’m a bit of a purist. 

Västerbotten pie:

For the dough:
225g flour
100g unsalted butter
1 egg

For the filling:
3 eggs
300g strong, firm cheese
250 ml cream
100 ml milk
salt, pepper.

1.  First, make the dough.  Combine the flour and the butter, straight from the fridge and chopped into cubes.  Use your fingers to combine until you get a flaky, crumb-like mixture. 

2.  Add the egg, beating to combine to form a dough.  Wrap in cling film and chill for at least half an hour.

3.  Heat the oven to 180 degrees.  Roll out your pastry to line a 20cm loose-bottomed tin.  It may help to use your knuckles to flatten the dough into place.  Prick all over with a fork and blind bake in the oven for about 20 or so minutes, until the case is beginning to come away from the edges of the tin, but not too crisp or golden.  

4.  Meanwhile, make the filling.  Grate the cheese coarsly.  Whisk the eggs, milk and cream together and add a good pinch of salt and a grating of black pepper.  Finally add the cheese- it will seem like quite a lot of cheese and make for a pretty curdy-like consistency.

5.  Pour the filling into the case and place back into the oven for an additional 20 minutes, until the filling is cooked through and only has the faintest of wobbles.  Allow to cool before releasing from the tin and transferring to a plate. 

It’s here, I found it.

Got back to the ranch late last night after seeing my friend Nick’s brilliant play, “If there is I haven’t found it yet” at the Bush Theatre and quite fancied a snack. I’d made this super sized quiche the night before and felt rather pleased with myself coming home to it.

It works on my basic quiche principle, which is a plain case filled with whatever you fancy and a 1:100 ratio of eggs to ml of single cream. For this particular one, I mixed things up a bit by using sour cream, one of my favorite ingredients (although not quite as great as creme fraiche). I’d been in the mood for some super strong flavours and this is the result.

Holy Moly Quiche

It’s called Holy Moly because it packs quite a punch- you’ve got anchovies, blue cheese and butternut squash, which I can find sickly sweet unless you pair it with something bitter, sour or punchy.

You will need
A medium sized butternut squash (peeled and chopped up into smallish cubes- bloody pain, but worth it)
Half a packet of baby spinach, washed
A strong blue cheese (I used Danish Blue as it’s what I had but Gorgonzola would be particularly nice here, I think)
anchovies (one tin), drained and finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic
a big hand full of flat leaf parsley, chopped
300ml sour cream
3 eggs

1. First off, make your pastry, which isn’t as hard as it sounds. My mum taught me this recipe and although it wouldn’t stand a chance in hell at a pastry pageant, it’s easy and it works. I love the way it turns out- all crumbly and sticks to the roof of your mouth.

All you do is pour some flour into a bowl and add butter, mixing with your hands or in a mixer until you have a pale yellow dough with a large crumb consistency. Sprinkle this into your pie dish (greased if it’s not non-stick) and press with your fingers to form the pastry case. Prick with a fork before blind baking in a 200 C/ Gas mark 6 oven for about 15-20min.

2. In the meantime parboil your butternut cubes for a few minutes. Drain and fry in olive oil and chopped garlic cloves. It’s ok if it becomes a bit mushy.

3. Whisk together your eggs and sour cream, add cheese (adjust amount to your liking), anchovies and parsley. Season with pepper only as the anchovies are quite salty enough (if you don’t like anchovies, omit them and add some salt at this stage).

4. When the squash is cooked through, add the spinach and let this wilt. Pour contents of pan into your prepared pastry.

5. Pour over the eggy cheesy mixture and bake for 30 min. Serve with a a nice spinach and tomato salad with balsamic dressing. Nice.